Since moving abroad to start my new job as a Peace Corps Volunteer a year and a half ago, I’ve become well-acquainted with what some travelers refer to as FOMO- Fear of missing out. It seems a little bit contradictory: I moved abroad to avoid missing out on a fulfilled, adventurous life doing work that matters for people I love, but here I am feeling like I’m missing out?
If you’ve ever lived abroad, for any period of time, I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from, but if not, I’m going to try and put it into words as best as I can.
I love where I’m from in the United States. In both Knoxville and Pittsburgh (and a few other places throughout the country) I have wonderful, supportive friends and family who I love and enjoy being with. In Panama I have a great job that lets me learn, explore, and put my skills to use in a great way. Geographically speaking though, I physically can’t have both at the same time.
Choosing to live abroad- or any place far from home- means that you’re going to have to give up things and experiences you’d otherwise have been happy to have. Sure, sometimes I miss physical things or places, but the thing that makes living abroad the hardest for me is knowing that I can’t be with the people I love all the times I’d love to be.
Going home is always an option, but it comes at a price. Depending on distance and cost, every expat draws his or her lines at different points, but it’s never easy. Would I love to be home for every birthday, graduation and important event? Absolutely. If travel weren’t an issue, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.
And that’s where FOMO sets in. Today my family is throwing a giant party for my grandma’s 90th birthday, in November my little sister is turning 21, and don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the little things that make life and relationships what they are.
When I do have internet, I love catching up on my family and friends’ lives back home. Some are in new relationships, others have new jobs, and even if nothing huge has changed, their lives are continuing in a beautiful way. Simultaneously, I love and hate facebook, instagram, twitter, and every other media outlet that shows me glimpses of what I’m missing.
I’m trying to have as much of both worlds as best as I can, but that’s certainly a challenge. I try to talk with loved ones back home as much as I can, and the ones I’m truly close to try just as hard (if not harder!) to keep me in the loop with their lives as they learn about mine.
We’re living completely different lives nearly 2,000 miles apart, but that’s what helps me keep my fear of missing out in check- friends and family who care enough to support me where I’m at for now.